The U.S. military detected “highly unusual” North Korean submarine activity on Sunday, CNN reported. What they believe they saw: evidence of an “ejection test” allegedly conducted “on land” at the Sinpo Naval Shipyard, on the country’s eastern coast. Such a test, CNN writes, “uses high pressure steam to propel a missile out of the launch canister into the air before its engines ignite. That helps prevent flames and heat from the engine from damaging either the submarine, submersible barge or any nearby equipment used to launch the missile.”
The test Sunday marks “the third time this month — and fourth this year — that North Korea has conducted a trial of the missile component that is critical to developing submarine launch capabilities, according to the US defense official.” Read on, here.
North Korea’s ICBM “shattered into pieces during its fiery re-entry to earth,” The New York Times reports.
From North Korea’s Department of Lessons Learned: North Korea’s first ICBM test on July 4 found the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, mulling about the launch site for some 70 minutes prior to the big moment, The Diplomat reported last month.
So for Pyongyang’s second ICBM launch, on Friday, “the country did it in the dead of night from a previously unknown launch site with several Kim look-alikes walking around the site,” Business Insider writes off a recent podcast from @armscontrolwonk Jeffrey Lewis and Aaron Stein of the Atlantic Council.
Worth noting from the duo’s observation: “the ground-based midcourse defense, the US’s primary line of missile defense, has never been tested at night.” Catch the podcast in full, over here.
Want to know still more about North Korea’s missiles? Researcher Matt Korda has a survey for you over at Jeffrey Lewis’s blog. He explains, among other things, “why the Hwasong-13, the Nodong-C, and the KN-08 can all refer to the same missile.” Worth the click, here.
Surprise, surprise: China blames the U.S. for tensions on the Korean peninsula. The Wall Street Journal has that from the UN, here.
From Defense One
The Downsides of John Kelly’s Ascension // Eliot A. Cohen: The former Marine general is unlikely to succeed in his new job, even as his appointment contributes to the decay of American civil-military relations.
3 Questions: Consumer Drones & Security // Ben Watson: An exploration of the growing market for unmanned aircraft, their many applications, and what bad guys might do with them.
Give Up on Denuclearizing North Korea // Jon Wolfsthal: The question now is how to convince it not to use its weapons.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1914: Germany declares war on Russia. Have something you want to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
Iraq is trying to move beyond the ISIS siege of Mosul. For a window into how difficult it has become already for the country, The Telegraph visited the only court in northern Iraq hearing ISIS cases. The details are not pretty. Story, here.
Iraq’s prediction for the fight ahead in ISIS-held Tal Afar? “I don’t expect it will be a fierce battle,” Major-General Najm al-Jabouri told Reuters in an interview on Monday. “The city, with about 200,000 residents before falling to Islamic State” is now estimated to hold “between 1,500 and 2,000 militants,” according to Jabouri. Adds Reuters, “The city had already been sealed off by Kurdish forces to the north, and mainly Shi’ite paramilitaries to the south leading to shortages of food and water.” Orders to begin the offensive on Tal Afar could come “in days, or a week, or two,” Jabouri said. More here.
The U.S. military is worried about Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. The equipment: the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, which The Hill writes “is designed to shoot down enemy aircraft and has a range of about 250 miles.”
The beef: “What’s been reported here is something that’s not interoperable with anything that we have and that’s obviously cause for concern,” Pentagon spox Capt. Jeff Davis said. More here.
The Pentagon and the State Department want to arm Ukraine. Will the White House sign off? “The Pentagon and State Department have devised plans to supply Ukraine with antitank missiles and other weaponry and are seeking White House approval,” U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal on Monday. “Under the Pentagon and State Department proposal, the U.S. would provide antitank weapons, most likely Javelin missiles, as well as possibly antiaircraft weapons, in addition to other arms. Ukraine has long sought Javelins to counter Russian-made armored vehicles in rebel-held areas. U.S. officials, however, said the plan would be to deploy the antitank missiles with Ukrainian troops stationed away from the front lines of the conflict — part of an effort by policy makers to limit the risks of escalation and defuse criticism that the moves could encourage offensive action by Kiev.”
So, what next? “The official said President Donald Trump hasn’t been briefed on the plan and his position isn’t known. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has endorsed the plan, according to U.S. officials.” More here.
Reminder: President Trump still hasn’t signed the Russian sanctions legislation delivered to his desk on July 28.
A new office is being grafted onto the State Department even as the rest of the diplomatic corps is being cut. Foreign Policy: Dozens of outsiders are being hired to work in “a dramatically expanded front office that is supposed to advise [Secretary Rex] Tillerson on policy. Foreign service officers see this expansion as a ‘parallel department’ that could effectively shut off the secretary and his advisors from the career employees in the rest of the building. The new hires, several State officials told Foreign Policy, will be working for the policy planning staff, a small office set up in 1947 to provide strategic advice to the secretary that typically has about 20-25 people on its payroll. One senior State Department official and one recently retired diplomat told FP that Tillerson has plans to double or perhaps triple its size, even as he proposes a sweeping reorganization and drastic cuts to the State Department workforce.” Read on, here.
Meanwhile: “State Department considers scrubbing democracy promotion from its mission,” the Washington Post reports, citing a new draft of the department’s mission statement. “The only significant difference is the deletion of justice and democracy,” said Elliott Abrams, who served as deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy during the George W. Bush administration. “We used to want a just and democratic world, and now apparently we don’t.” Read, here.
SitRep from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow: American diplomatic staff is now locked out of a recreation property it held northwest of the Russian capital, Reuters reported Monday. “Moscow has said it is taking it back as part of retaliatory measures after Washington approved a fresh round of sanctions against Russia.” Story — not much to it — here.
China has new hexacopters and self-detonating drones, Popular Science’s Jeffrey Lin and New America’s Peter Singer reported Monday. One of the devices is awfully similar “to the American Aerovironment “Switchblade” used by Special Operations,” they write. We’ll let those guys explain the rest, along with photos, over here.
In other Chinese military gear: See also this fancy Chinese J-20 stealth fighter footage.
And speculate on these underwater drones, possibly useful for submarine-hunting, according to The Diplomat.
The U.S. Navy, along with Japanese and Kiwi counterparts, began practicing hunting subs yesterday off the coast of Guam. Today, the exercise grows, when “U.S. forces assigned to the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group will be joined in the North Atlantic by forces from the United Kingdom’s carrier strike group and other allies as part of the Saxon Warrior 2017,” U.S. Naval Institute News reports.
Involved: “Approximately 6,000 U.S. sailors will participate in Saxon Warrior, in which allied forces will participate in training scenarios involving strategic strike, air defense operations, combat air support, and enforcing no-fly zones… other nations expected to participate include Germany, Norway, and Sweden.” The exercise runs for the next two weeks. More here.
Various White House officials fell for fake emails from a self-described prankster in the UK, CNN reported Monday. Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert sent his personal email to someone he thought was Jared Kushner, while (now-departed) comms director Anthony Scaramucci traded insults with someone he thought was (now-departed) chief of staff Reince Priebus. Here’s former FBI cyber spcialist Adam Malone: “Spear-phishing is the most common technique used by hackers to gain access to their victims. This information shines a light on how easy it is for people to build trust with unverified individuals.” CNN continued: “Former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta infamously fell victim to such a trap, though the person who preyed on him had more nefarious intentions than mockery.” Read on, here.
Australian authorities raid four locations after airplane-terror arrests. Australian Federal Police in yellow protective suits searched buildings in four Sydney suburbs, looking for evidence and bomb-making material in the wake of the weekend arrests of four men accused to planning to “bring down an airplane as part of a complex terror plot,” CNN reported.
Lastly today: What’s taking so long with the Pentagon’s Afghan war plans? U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman unpacks some of the behind-the-scenes chatter — along with what Pentagon spox Davis said Monday, when he told reporters: “We want to get the strategy first, and that’s what we’re working on first… [SecDef Mattis] he has ruled out making a decision before the strategy.” That, here.